Chromebooks can be a shot in the dark. It’s easy to get sucked in by a low price, only to end up with a dismally low-quality device on your hands. However, with the Acer Chromebook 14 CB3-431-C99D, you don’t have to step up to the higher-priced territory of Dell’s Chromebook 13 or HP Chromebook 13 to find the kind of satisfaction you need. For a midrange price, it this Chromebook 14 gives you and all-aluminum chassis, a bright display, even if its performance and other attributes are less appealing.
Design & Features
Acer touts the all-aluminum chassis on the CB3-431-C99D, the same material you find on the new Acer Chromebook 14 (Blue), and they do so for a good reason. It does a nice job silencing plastic competitors, and the brushed-metal shell looks premium and feels great. The notebook is only 0.7-inches thick and weighs a comfortable 3.4 pounds by Acer’s specification. Encased in the slim profile is a 14-inch, 1366 x 768 LED-backlit display, which is typical for Chromebooks at this price range. The 170-degree viewing angle means its readable from all sides, and the antiglare coating is another big plus.
The keyboard has the hard-plastic keys and harsh, abrupt travel which is typical of entry-level Chromebooks – not necessarily what the Chromebook 14 should be. The large clickpad works well, though. Port selection is limited to two USB 3.0 ports, and one HDMI port with HDCP support. Wireless connectivity comes via 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2.
The Chromebook CB3-431-C99D’s performance reflects its modest Intel Celeron N3060 dual-core processor running at 2.4GHz, with 4GB DDR3 RAM and integrated Intel HD graphics. The setup is ideal for mainstream web apps and a movie streaming – which is the most people with Chromebooks do – but this isn’t the Chromebook for heavyweights tinkering with web gaming or other graphics-intensive tasks. In fact, even running multiple media-heavy sites simultaneously seems to strain the Chromebook 14, so keep it simple.
A higher resolution – maybe 1080p would use more battery, but the lower resolution here works well with the 3-cell 3920 mAh battery pack, Acer claims that the battery can last up to 14 hours on a single charge, but in typical use you’ll easily log just over 11.5 hours, which is quite acceptable.
The new Acer Chromebook 14 is all about looks and feel. The aluminum shell and thin profile do a lot to separate it from its lower-cost cousins and give you a better experience. You really aren’t paying extra more for those two perks, but I wouldn’t mind paying more to get a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display. Again, it’d cost you even more to get better performance and performance features in something like the Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DS384T, but for mainstream users, the Acer Chromebook 14 CB3-431-C99D represents a fairly sweet spot.